Category: Dialogue

Birmingham Faith Leaders’ Pilgrimage to Amritsar

Worship Leaders Mohiwal Golden Temple Diwali Golden Temple 1PictureFLG Discussion 2 FLG Discussion

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The chance to go on a visit to Amritsar as part of an interfaith pilgrimage is not something that comes along everyday, so when Dr Andrew Smith from the Faithful Neighbourhoods Centre received the invitation he started packing immediately.

Andrew writes

The visit gave us a chance to visit some of the most sacred sites Sikhism and to visit them in the company of Sikhs for whom this was a very significant spiritual journey. We had the privilege of being in Amritsar for Diwali and to share in the celebrations of that day. We also visited Sultanpur, the site where Guru Nanak meditated and where in 1496 he stepped into the waters of the river Bein and disappeared. After three days he returned with a  divine glow and started his mission to fight hypocrisy, preach the word of God and show people how to live in peace.

The trip also included a visit to Anandpur and the site of the first Amrit ceremony in 1699 and the foundation of the Khalsa.

As well as visiting the sites there was also much chance for discussion around faith and belief, interesting resonances between faiths were explored such as the experience of exile and the way that can lead to growth and the nature and response of a call to live a holy life. As our friendships grew during the week we were also able to discuss issues that we disagree on, including profound questions about where we have come from, where we are going and what we are called to do? Whether one beliefs people are created in the womb or reincarnated or their soul has transmigrated leads to very different understandings of humanity and the human condition. The depth of discussion led to new insights and scope for much deeper discussions in the future.

Our thanks go to the leaders and volunteers from GNNSJ in Birmingham who organised and hosted this fascinating visit.

 

 

Mystery Mission Trip Lands at the FNC

For three days in July the FNC became home for 20 young people and leaders from Knowle Parish Church. They eat, worshipped, and even slept at the FNC which they even found to be quite comfortable! However this wasn’t just a luxury city break they were here as part of their church’s annual mission trip for young people. So whilst they were with us they went litter picking with the Balsall Heath Forum, helped out at the Sultan Bahu Trust, Got involved with The Feast, did gardening at The Springfield Centre and helped at the Narthex Food Bank.

As well as all this activity they visited shops on the Stratford Road, had a tour of the Hamza Masjid and were there for Iftar and had a delicious meal at Hajees Restaurant.

Although Sparkhill is only 15 minutes away from Knowle, it’s a different world, one which many of the young people had never visited. However, they got stuck into the work and were enthusiastic and hardworking volunteers.

 

The Winners Are Announced

The winners of the Near Neighbours Photography exhibition were announced and awarded their prizes on Saturday 16th November 2013. At a lively and fun evening at Birmingham Cathedral hosted by Nikki Tapper from BBC  RadioWM, the winners were awarded their prizes by The Right Revd David Urquhart, Bishop of Birmingham. The audience was entertained with drumming from the Christian and Muslim women’s drumming group which had been supported by Near Neighbours.

 

The Winners were:

In the Faith Category 1st Prize Paul Hillcox with ‘Autumn Light’ 2nd Prize Andrew Brazier with ‘In faith we Ying and Yang on land and sky’ 3rd Prize Kirat Singh with ‘Interfaith Friends’

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Friendship Category 1st Mary Simones-Jones with ‘Margaret and her friend’ 2nd Amrick Singh Ubhi with ‘It is an honour and a pleasure to meet you’ 3rd Leina Zaigirdar with ‘Heartfusion’

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Community Category 1st, 2nd & 3rd were won by Ines Elsa Dalal with ‘Muslim Family and a Sikh family collide’ ‘St Paul’s Community Trust 10th  Anniversary Open Day’ ‘Olympic torch relay aftermath’

 

 

 

 

 

 

The overall winner was Paul Hillcox with ‘Faith Reflected’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All the entries can be viewed on the Near Neighbours Flickr site

Competion Winners on Display

The Near Neighbours in Birmingham photo competition was opened with a  private viewing for invited guests to St. Philip’s Cathedral. The 60 guests all spoke very highly of the photos which are being displayed in the Cathedral alongside the Faithful Friends Exhibition. The evening included speeches by The Rt Revd David Urquhart, Bishop of Birmingham and Mohammed Ali the well known Graffiti artist.

The competition winners will be on display in the Cathedral until the 23rd November and all the entries are available for the public to see when they visit.

The competition invited amateur photographers from Birmingham to submit pictures on the themes of:
Faith
Friendship
Community

There was a winner, runner up and third place in each category plus a selection of ‘Judges’ Favourites’ which did win prizes but which were highly commended by the judging panel.

There was also an overall winner drawn from all the pictures. This was won by Paul Hillcox for a wonderful close up study of an eye with a church window reflected in it. Paul said of his picture:
“The image was an inspired moment after our church service during the summer . I was trying out a new lens and just wanted to try something a little different and was attracted by the light from our church windows reflected in my wife’s eye. My wife, Veronica, has a very deep faith and I was quite moved by the image when I viewed it on my laptop. I have never tried this type of photo before and I am delighted that others find the same deeper meaning in the photograph.”

You can view all of the entries on the Near Neighbours Flickr Site

Catalyst Team Synergy Video

In early 2013 the Catalyst group were split into three teams and each was challenged to run a Near Neighbours event. Each event was different effective and exciting. One group ran an art event, another trained local leaders in how to apply for Near Neighbours funding and the third, Team Synergy, ran a morning for children from two primary schools, one Catholic and one Sikh. They produced the following video which captures the fun and significance of the morning for the pupils.

 

Young People Meet Birmingham Faith Leaders

How do we inspire a new generation of young people to take their faith and the faiths of others seriously? In June Andrew Smith went with the Birmingham Faith Leader’s Group for their annual day away. The main part of the day was a meeting between the Faith Leaders and pupils from Hagley Catholic High School Sixth Form. After eating lunch together there was a chance for the pupils to ask the faith leaders questions around the theme of ‘Views on life after death’. The questions were probing and insightful and opened up some lively discussion amongst the faith leaders. Because of their good relationships and willingness to enter into honest and robust dialogue the pupils experienced a healthy discussion where people didn’t agree but were able to talk honestly about their views. The frankness of the pupil’s questions was refreshing and opened up topics that weren’t planned for but which gave space for good discussion.

 

The young people gave their assessment of the day:

“The day Hagley Catholic Sixth Form met the Birmingham Faith Leaders Group by John Horton, Amy Price, and Laura Kirton. On the 24th of June members of the Hagley Catholic High School Sixth Form met with the Birmingham Faith Leaders group at Harvington Hall. The day began with the Sixth Form being introduced to the different representatives of each faith and the collective group were told what the schedule for the rest of the afternoon was. After the introductions were over we all gathered together in the dining room for a delicious vegetarian meal to suit all religious values. After our lovely meal we started the tour of the hall. The guide showed us a few of the priest holes made by Saint Nicholas Owen, our patron saint. One of our students even got the chance to try out one of the priest holes, much to the religious leader’s amusement. We had the experience of going into the Harvington hall chapel and were told about the difficulties of being a Catholic priest during this time period, certain details such as the position of the windows so that anyone trying to have a secret mass would be able to see the soldiers coming. This then led the guide to show us a secret compartment under the floorboards to hide all the priest’s religious belongings which was fascinating. One of the more interesting priest holes was located under the grand staircase when you lift up a few of the steps and more than a few students were shocked to see a mannequin looking back at them from the hiding place. Post-tour we gathered in the Great Chamber for our question and answer session with the faith leaders. There were representatives of several different faiths including Sikh, Buddhist, Muslim, Christianity and Judaism. This gave us a real chance to gain an insight into each of the individual faiths and their beliefs. In particular we talked about the issues of life after death from each religions’ perspective and we also enjoyed a discussion about conversion and proselytization, which was very insightful. Overall it was a very fulfilling experience for all of the students and it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to be in a room with so many different faiths co-operating together, speaking openly with each other. The culture of respect and sharing of beliefs was very much appreciated by us and one that we are keen to pursue in the future. It really inspired us as a Sixth form to see such good being done by such a diverse group and we would like to thank the Birmingham faith leaders group for this amazing experience that we will never forget, and we hope this opportunity arises again for us and others around the county.”

 

The Gift of Giving and Friendship

Today two young men from The Feast project Y4M (Youth for Moseley) visited the Sparkhill food bank for a behind-the-scenes look at what happens to food once it’s donated.

These young men from Moseley School, one Christian and one Muslim, joined forces to make a video encouraging others from their school to take part in a food drive that will start soon.

Not only were these two representing the Y4M after school club, but they were also representing their faith and looking at how they could work together to tackle poverty.

When asked why they were willing to give up a day of their holiday to help out they said:

“It’s important because not only is it written in the Qur’an, but it nourishes your own soul, knowing that you are making a difference. When you give, it removes your own selfishness.” said Bilal.

“I like helping people. I was always taught to respect people and the Bible says to do for others what I’d like them to do for me. It’s part of who I am. Being Tswana (from Botswana) that’s how we’re grounded – you just know someday, someone will need to help you.” Mandla said.

These young men have also become pretty good friends in the short space of time they’ve known each other. Having met in the after-school club (Y4M) just 3 weeks ago, they spent most of the journey to and from the food bank talking about their faith and their beliefs. It was so encouraging to hear them speak so positively about each others faith and to have them both speak so passionately about recent events in the media.

When reflecting on their day, Bilal said: “It’s kinda cool when a non-Muslim defends a Muslim because it shows the brotherhood between them. It touched me when Mandla said he knew that all Muslims aren’t like how the media negatively represents us at times.”

“Bilal called me a friend and a good guy – that’s something I don’t get every day, especially from a Muslim. It made me feel quite good about myself and about how other people from a different religion can still view me an appreciate me.” said Mandla.

Today I thought we were simply going to a food bank to see how food is collected, stored and distributed. What I witnessed, however, was a marvellous gift of friendship, exchanged between two young men of different cultures and different faiths.

The Feast join the team at the FNC

We’re delighted that at the start of May the local charity The Feast moved into the FNC. The Feast is a local Christian charity that works to build relationships between Christian and Muslim teenagers.

The Feast is all about…
•Exploring faith: young people are encouraged and equipped to discuss their faith in ways which draw out both the similarities and differences between them.

•Creating friendships: by bringing together young people in a positive and fun environment we provide the opportunities for them to get to know one another, work on projects together and build on-going friendship built on trust and respect.

•Changing lives: having been to events run by The Feast the young people are challenged and enabled to live out the lessons they have learnt in their everyday lives amongst their friends, family and the wider community.

Their work fits with the three strands of work that we undertake here at the FNC namely: Tackling Poverty, Engaging with Other Faiths and  Transforming Communities.

Do look out for news of what The Feast are up to or visit their website and facebook page for regular updates.

Learning to Lead in the Big City

‘Tomorrow members of the public are coming for a guided tour of London, your task between now and then is to research, plan and then lead a tour for them’.

How would you feel if that was said to you? well that was just one of the challenges the Catalyst group faced on their residential trip to London. They had less than 24 hours to plan a trip in a city few of them new well for people they had never met. It demanded that they drew on all the leadership training they had received through the Catalyst programme so far, and was a real challenge.

The four day trip also included a visit to the House of Lords to discuss being a faith leader in the public and political sphere. They were guided by the Rt Revd Bishop David Urquhart, Bishop of Birmingham and one of the Lords Spiritual who sits in the House of Lords. He gave a fascinating tour of the house explaining its workings and history and chaired a discussion for them to grapple with how to be a leader of faith in a society where faith isn’t always taken seriously or considered relevant to political or moral debate.

Having the chance to spend time together, socialise and eat together brought the group much closer and led to some really deep and profound conversations on topics such as women in leadership, salvation and gay marriage. Our evening reflections included the opportunity to reflect on pieces of art from different faith traditions, on the final day we visited Tate Modern and looked at art inspired both by a spirituality and by no faith or spirituality at all.

It was a fantastic time which drew us together as a group, challenged us all and developed leadership skills amongst this key group of emerging leaders in Birmingham.

Oh, and how were the guided tours? Brilliant.

Planning, Personality and Pressure

The third Catalyst day took place at the Faithful Neighbourhoods Centre on Saturday 12th January. In a packed day the group learnt about basic planning for events including budgeting, risk assessments and safeguarding. After a wonderful curry for lunch the group thought about how their personality affects their leadership by going through an introduction to the Myers Briggs Tye Indicator personality test. This useful and entertaining session was led by Tom and Judy Walsh who helped us all see how personality impacts the way we lead and how we relate to those in our teams.

The final session of the day was on Leadership under pressure and was led by Jake Diliberto who brought a vast array of experience to the topic and described pressure situations he’d been a leader in that we all hoped we could avoid!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a warm up for this session the group were all put under pressure as they were challenged to use £5 to buy ingredients for a tasty snack for us to share in the tea break. The pressure was added to as they only had 35 mins from receiving the instructions to needing to serve the food. In this time they had to buy the ingredients, prepare them and do a risk assessment on the activity. A beautiful fruit salad, mini fruit kebabs and cheese and tomato on ciabatta were the results.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In April all the members of Catalyst will have to prepare and run a Near Neighbours event, to prepare them for this task Immy Kaur shared her experience of running the Art for Action project in 2012.

Next up for Catalyst is our Residential trip to London from 28th Feb-3rd March. Look out for more updates

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